Genetic Engineering remains a subject of controversy. W. Saletan described the recent conference from the Genetics and Public Policy center, provocately called "Babies by Design".
Your doctor doesn't want that, because a genetic change that's helpful in one part of your body might be harmful in another. As the conference proceeds, we learn how to dress up this problem in the bloodless language of science. We hear about "insertional mutagenesis" and "aberrant activation of oncogenes." We hear of kids who got leukemia from gene therapy. Oops.
However, the potential is there for significant benefits.
The conversation moves around the table. Gregory Stock, a biotech apostle from UCLA, predicts that within 10 to 20 years, human eggs will be screened for personality traits. Beyond that, he looks forward to artificial chromosomes.
But significant controversial issues remain
I sympathize with Schatten until he opens the subsequent panel discussion by envisioning with excitement a world divided between "reproductive embryos" and "therapeutic embryos." The latter would be mined for stem cells, he explains. What about the humanity of embryos consigned to research? Schatten says he and other stem cell investigators "don't believe those are human subjects."
The issue of using human embryos for research will continue to be a significant roadblock to progress.
The ongoing story regarding the shortage of influenza vaccine has the pundits looking for the causes. Instapundit refers to a post from Kevin Drum that discounts liability lawsuits as the main reason. Professor Bainbridge covers the subject here
Polipundit then referred to a story from Frontpage magazine that stated
In the late 80’s a man from North Carolina who had received the vaccine got the flu. The strain he caught was one of the strains in that years vaccine made by a US company.
What did he do? He sued and he won. He was awarded almost $5 million!
On the other hand, Snopes claims that this story is an urban legend.
the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 eliminated most of those lawsuits through the creation of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), a no-fault compensation alternative to suing vaccine manufacturers and providers for people injured or killed by vaccines. According to a 2003 report by the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), "vaccine shortages do not appear to be liability related":
Unfortunately, Snopes does not have the whole story, since the Vaccine Injury Compensation program does not cover the influenza vaccine.
Vaccines covered under the program include those that protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), and polio. The program continues to evolve consistent with medical science, and recently, HHS expanded coverage to four new vaccines: hepatitis B, varicella (chicken pox), Hemophilus influenzae type b, and rotavirus; pneumococcal vaccine will soon be covered, too.
Note that Hemophilus Influenzae type b is NOT the same as the most commonly known influenza or flu that afflicts the general population
The injury table for the program can be found in this link and it does not provide for compensation for injuries derived from the influenza vaccine. Thus, the Snopes article does not prove that that liability lawsuits have not driven the vaccine manufacturers away from manufacturing the influenza vaccine while other sources point to them as a significant factor affecting the cost of vaccine supply.